Injury worries clouded Novak Djokovic’s hopes of a second French Open title as he said he had suffered neck and shoulder problems during his laboured quarter-final win over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old top seed walked out on to a chilly Court Philippe Chatrier with the back of his neck taped and he also needed treatment on his upper arm during the match.
It looked as though Carreno Busta was primed to cause an upset when he won the first set but Djokovic survived to win 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-4 and move into his 10th French Open semi-final where he will play Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“I definitely didn’t feel great coming into the court today. Few things happened in the warmup,” Djokovic, who looked restricted especially on his trademark backhand early on, said.
“I had to deal with those physical issues coming onto the court. As the match went on, I felt better, didn’t feel as much pain. Especially for set and a half he was the better player, dictating the play. I was very neutral.
“I didn’t have much of energy really happening in my legs or movement or game itself. It took me about set and a half to really get comfortable.”
Asked exactly what the problem was, Djokovic said: “I had some neck issues and some shoulder issues. I don’t want to get really too much into it.
“Obviously I’m still in the tournament, so I don’t want to reveal too much.”
It was Carreno Busta who Djokovic was facing in the fourth round of the U.S. Open a month ago when he struck a female line judge in the throat with a ball that he had swatted away in frustration and was disqualified.
Djokovic said that humiliating episode had not played on his mind in Wednesday’s clash in which he was below his best as he dropped his first set of the tournament.
“I told you guys many times I’m over it. I’m not thinking
about it at all. I mean, zero percent,” Djokovic said.
His path to what he hopes will be an 18th Grand Slam title is now blocked by Tsitsipas who will be dangerous, especially if Djokovic is less than 100% fit.
“I expect a really tough, tough match, tough challenge for
both of us,” Djokovic said. “He’s a big guy, big serve. He has weapons, obviously serve and forehand.
“I’m hopefully going to be able to feel my best.”